28. The Earlier Device

Some things were making sense to Enkudu, but those puzzle pieces sliding into place meant older, ancient pieces of thought machinery had to fall away.

What did death really mean to a boy who could now, with concentration, tap into the memories of another, even on the moment of death? Jubal had known how to fight with knives, how to survive a desert, how to escape a horse, and most tellingly now, how to die. Delilah had outwitted a prince and monster, conspired with two languages, weathered many storms and escaped history’s eyes. Even the … crab… had known many things, remembered in its dying moments.

Enk stepped onto the road ahead of Innogen. The cars were coming, yes, but he knew that as he moved, he wouldn’t get hit. The pacing wasn’t right. He could look at that path ahead of him, and commit to it – and just failing to hesitate brought him forwards, in the right time. A moment later and he’d have been a smear. Behind him, Innogen yelled, standing on the kerb.

On the far side of the road, Enk turned around, and waved his hand over his head. “C’mon.” He simply said, turning to the sidewalk, parallel, walking along it while he sunk his hands into his pockets, his head between his shoulders, his gaze to his shoes.

There was of course, Shamgar. That one bothered him the most. The online search had been super useful at finding out about Ishmael and Isaac, and he’d heard a Sunday School Story about Delilah years ago. The premise was pretty obvious, but Shamgar? Nobody knew a thing about Shamgar. Some dude in the Bible who had had two verses dedicated to him that seemed to confuse and to contradict. But closing his eyes and relaxing, Enk could feel his memories flooding in against the others, like pools of melting quicksilver. The feel of the wood in his hand, the sense of the desert night, the spatter of Goliath’s blood on his face.

Enk had been having these flashbacks since just after the first night of magic. He’d felt they were just his imagination wandering. Just drifting spikes of possibility in his mind that had, for years, been happily pacing around in a tight little circle. But it wasn’t like he or his mother had ever really been into the Bible – how was he meant to have imagined up a fanfiction for Shamgar, for crying out loud? The son of Anath? Or not? Then when he’d dirfted off, staring at the crabs, in the bucket, the other memory had bubbled up, from the depths of a memory that was not even his own.

*

The words of the Guard didn’t really sit in Enk’s brain the way the words of the others did. When Shamgar had looked at his hand, the word he thought was ‘hand,’ not ?? or yad. Somehow, the language of the mind was not quite as fundamental as Enk imagined it should be – but still, it played a part. The water that flowed from place to place was water wherever it went, but the pipes and plumbing had to have some influence.

It hadn’t been a Thing or a Device. It was almost like The Device. Like there was no good term for what it was, since nothing like it had been built before, and yet how it was built had been such a triumph of engineering, it deserved more than mere uniqueness to mark it.

The war over magical energy had brought with it a host of innovations. Factions, nations, the crabs had split apart – crabs really felt like the wrong term to use, but whatever – and fallen to long, staring battles across vast, deep gulfs of the cold and dangerous water that were peopled by the deep beasts, the places the crabs did not go. Magic bridged the waters, but control of magic had become crucial.

The device was meant to watch its area. When magic was used, ripples set through the water – or even the air, if a crab was ever fool enough to spend time out of the water – would bounce off one another, and eventually, the very sensitive device would recognise that.

The device was powered by magic, yes, but receiving any magic at all would still it. Any magic at all, within the kingdom of the crabs, would keep the device sitting, in its place. The device perched quietly in its it place, deep and brooding, and simply waited.

Magic was destroyed, consumed, by another culture, before the device had been activated. The mad king had almost activated it ahead of time, had willingly used it to destroy the world to destroy his enemies.

Still…

The king had died. The magic had been lost. The device had laid dormant.

When magic had returned, the device could see; it could detect it, such was its design. But within the swirling slopes of suboceanic sand, down in the ditch where the device had long since fallen, the ocean, the device saw no crabs. It saw no crabs with magic. It felt no stirrings of magic from the people it had been set to notice.

And so, it had engaged.

It had risen from the doomlike depths of the ocean, filling itself with magic and water on its ascent. It had flooded its inner chambers, starting pumps and valves, engaging a mighty engine. The device turned, and wheeled, bit by bit, and when it breeched, it began its dreadful process.

Mankind once dropped dreadful weapons upon the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It was not the first time that a doomsday weapon had been made. It was just the first time a doomsday weapon had worked.

Just a short one today.

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